Monday, August 24, 2015

Parenting in the Pew: A few suggestions for maximizing Sundays with little ones (Repost)

With promotion season here for many churches, here are some suggestions for maximizing Sundays with little ones. (Originally posted in Aug 2014)

Are you ever going to stop moving? There is no way you need to go to the potty AGAIN! Chairs are for sitting, not wallowing. Can you please stop looking behind you? No, you cannot have another peppermint. It will be over when it's over, stop asking. Sit still!

Have you ever whispered any of the above to a little one that you are desperately trying to keep subdued during church? I have. Having children in church is a wonderful if not sometimes challenging privilege. The idealism of a family all sitting in church quietly lined up like little angels is not usually reality for most of us. Some weeks you feel more like you are trying to wrangle a lab puppy, or two.   

As another Sunday approaches and promotion season has come for many churches to graduate the new kids into "Big Church," here are a few practical tips for parenting in the pew:

  • Commit

The more committed you are as a parent to having your child consistently in church the better things will go. I believe corporate worship is immensely valuable. It is true that there may be portions of the service that fly over their heads, but the value of being together with the church family, singing songs of praise to God, hearing the Word read and preached is beyond any one sermon or service. The true value to having kids in corporate worship builds cumulatively. The importance of this time may not be apparent after a week, or two, or three, but over months and years our children will have ingrained in their DNA that this is an immensely serious and important time. As you commit to weekly worship, your children will look back years later and know this was important to mom and dad. 

  • Prepare

    Part of the tension for families is every week is a grind. You go to work; take the kids to school or school them at home; you run to and from practice then by the time Sunday morning gets here, you’re ready for a break. You think how nice it would be to ship the kids away for a few hours for some much needed refreshment in the Word. 

    But remember what we are doing at church. Is there anything more important than gathering with God’s people consistently to worship the living and redeeming God? Our kids will grow up and leave home one day. What do you want them to remember about how your family valued corporate worship? As an afterthought? No, let’s prioritize this! 

    Here are a few ways we can prepare well through the week: 

    TALK: Take some time each week on a few occasions to talk about worshipping on Sundays. Remind your kids of what they learned and remind them that Sunday’s coming. Worship is a privilege not a drudgery. Communicate that to your kids.  

    PRAY: Often times when we are at the dinner table as I pray before our meal, I will thank the Lord for our church. I think it’s important for our kids to know we are thankful for a group with which to worship. Pray for missionaries, pray for your elders, pray for special events coming up and those who are hurting in the church. Let your kids hear you pray specifically for the local body. 

    PLAN: This is where a little bit of forethought goes a long ways. My wife is really good about having something for our kids to do during the service. We do not expect them to take copious notes (my kids are 8, 6 & 6). Be realistic. Many times, we will take a sheet of paper and make 3-4 columns on the page. We have the kids listen for key words. Usually a couple of simple ones like God or Jesus, and then something more sermon specific. If you know the text to be preached, you can look ahead and use a word like resurrection or grace. We have them make a tally mark each time they hear that word. Our kids have responded pretty well to this so far. 

    We try to bring one maybe 2 things for kids to do to occupy their hands. But don’t give many options (they just go back and forth ad infinitum) and think of things that aren’t overly noisy. Many times just a pen and paper are fine. Occupied hands often times means quieter mouth.   

    • Repeat

    The question on Sunday morning doesn't need to be are we going, the question needs to be what time are we leaving. Before someone cries “legalist,” I do understand that occasionally folks miss church. I get it, I really do. But for the most part, if we are healthy, in town, and otherwise available, be there. You need it for your own soul and your kids need consistency. The more you do this the better it will be for you and them. 

    • Relax

      Do you know what you get when you toss a bunch of kids into a worship service? Noise. And that’s fine. Relax, they’re kids in training — works in progress, just like the rest of us. If they drop their pens (for the 10th time), or incessantly rattle some papers, or awkwardly stare at the new family behind them, gently move them along and reengage in the service. It’s OK! As a pastor who preaches weekly, I love seeing the little ones, noises and all, in our services. Your child is probably not nearly as noisy as you think they are. Of course we want to be respectful and try to minimize distractions, but in the big scheme, a little racket, occasional outburst, or noise is all going to be part of the process. I’ve had leaders in our church tell me that they love the noise that comes from the kids. It means we are depositing into the next generation!

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